The Banger Sisters (15)
Über groupie Suzette has been rocking, rolling, boozing and bonking for the best part of 35 years, so it comes as a monumental shock when she loses her bar job at The Whiskey-a-Go-Go – the legendary L.A. bar where she made her reputation in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
But just as the times have changed, so has the management, and Suzette is considered to be not the glam rock chick she’s convinced she is, but a rock ‘n’ roll dinosaur from the dim past.
In a fit of pique, but also in an attempt to prove to herself that she still has what it takes, Suzette heads off across country to find her former best pal, Vinnie. Together, many moons ago, they were the best groupies in the business, earning the reputation The Banger Sisters.
En-route Suzette picks up depressive hitchhiker Harry, a Hollywood scriptwriter heading for a showdown with his old dad with a gun hidden in his typewriter case. It’s certainly a strange pairing.
What Suzette never stops to consider is how Vinnie may have changed during the long 20 years they have been apart. So she’s more a little shocked to find her erstwhile friend living an ultra-conservative lifestyle, replete with starchy husband and daughters, and calling herself by her real name: Lavinia. With Harry in tow, things couldn’t be more problematic…
Writer/director Bob Dolman had carried around the idea for The Banger Sisters in his head for years before it finally made it to the screen in the guise of Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon as fading belles Suzette and Vinnie. In essence what he has done is prove that there are interesting roles out there for middle-aged women even if the film never really reaches the heights it aims for.
Part road trip, part coming of (old) age movie, The Banger Sisters is about identity, perception and the exchange of youthful exuberance for middle-age conservatism. In Goldie Hawn it expresses the ‘never say die’ attitude of many people who are determined not to lay down and die of middle class mores, while Susan Sarandon exemplifies someone whose wholesale reinvention represents the denial of her inner soul. In other words, Goldie/Suzette is a dose of reality.
Then again, there are those that would point a wary finger and say women of a certain age should behave themselves and stop trying to rediscover the wild teenage years they left behind three or more decades ago.
Dolman doesn’t preach, though. Instead he offers two sides to an interesting argument, and urges the younger generation not to write off mum or auntie as boring old farts: chances are they’ve done it bigger, better and more often than the kids who think they’re doing everything for the first time. There is a lesson here.
Then there are the performances. Hawn comes out of this best as the original older babe – a 50-something blonde bombshell with augmented breasts so big she can almost rest her chin on them. She’s sassy, sexy, fun and, at the same time, more than a little sad as she attempts to hang on to a lifestyle that, at its most recent, died in the mid-‘80s.
Sarandon has little to play with until the moment she slashes off her locks, slides into a pair of skin-tight trousers and heads off with Hawn to a club for a night on the tiles.
Then there’s the shared secret moment when the giggling girls re-acquaint themselves with their ‘rock cock’ collection – a selection of polaroids of two generations of hard rockers with their pants down, proudly showing their wares. As one says: “Like some people collect baseball cards”.
The Banger Sisters is a paean to growing old disgracefully, and to having a good time. It doesn’t really go anywhere – and there are certainly no surprises – while the inclusion of Harry (Geoffrey Rush) is little more than a distraction from the main tale.
So kids, don’t write off mum. She may surprise you yet.
Star rating: ***